Geometry at Night #science #math #geometry #poem #poetry


Cuneiform tablets

A holy city worshiped bulls
Two thousand years ago
And gave the world astrology
Or so the story’s told.

Masters of geometry
They watched the sky at night
Saw stars that moved in retrograde
And puzzled at the sight.

Movements of the planets
Produce a twisted dance
They charted it with dents in clay
They had no proper graphs.

Geometry was once supreme
Before the calculus
Trapezoids drawn in the sky
For brains that functioned thus.

by Kate Rauner

Geometry is different – I’ve noticed that some people connect with geometry even if other forms of math leave them cold.

Astroarchaeologist Mathieu Ossendrijver, of Humboldt University in Berlin, has deciphered cuneiform tablets that predicted the planet Jupiter with fancy geometry found nowhere else in the ancient world.

“Ancient Babylonians used a complex geometrical model that looks like a rudimentary form of integral calculus to calculate the path of Jupiter. Scientists previously thought this mathematical technique was invented in medieval Europe.”

“Trapezoid calculations were a tool for calculating Jupiter’s displacement each day along the ecliptic, the path that the sun appears to trace through the stars. The computations recorded on the tablets covered a period of 60 days, beginning on a day when the giant planet first appeared in the night sky just before dawn… Learning how the Babylonians astronomers acquired their geometric acumen ‘would tell us something about why human beings do science in the first place, and from time to time do it very well indeed.'”

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